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Evolution Not Revolution: Sky Sport, Telefonica Discuss 5G in Sports Broadcasting and Production

11/10/2021

Evolution not revolution: Sky Sport and Telefonica discuss the use of 5G in sports broadcasting and production By SVG Contributor

Thursday, October 7, 2021 - 12:09

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There's currently a lot of buzz surrounding 5G in the public domain. In Germany, for example, over 100 cities are already fully 5G equipped, transforming the potential of day to day activities with promises of lightning-quick connectivity and unlimited bandwidth.

With O2/Telefonica promising full 5G coverage in Germany before 2025, the sports broadcasting industry has already started to realise that it also has the potential to significantly change how we create and consume content.

The Sky and Telefonica 5G Handball Journey panel at the Sky Sport Summit 2021, in cooperation with SVG Europe, was perhaps, for this reason, one of the most anticipated and hotly contested sessions of the event, which took place at the Dolby Cinema in Central Munich on 27 September.

We wanted to give the viewer a feeling of proximity to the match. From action on the actual handball pitch to cheering crowds, the smartphones succeeded in providing us with a totally refreshing narrative, a direct result of the flexibility of 5G.

Alessandro Reitano, senior vice president of sports production at Sky Germany, chaired the panel, which saw Daniel Url, head of global product management at Vizrt, Markus von B hlen, director of trading, devices and digital life at O2/Telefonica and Peter Frantz, CEO of Netorium/ LiveU, deconstructed the recent 5G Handball broadcast, which was the first of its kind in Europe.

The lower-tiered sports event which was 100% cloud produced was broadcast using 12 Samsung Galaxy smartphones to transmit 134Gb of content to Sky's production studios in Unterf hrung.

Astonishingly, the 5G network (including Nokia Airscale technology) at the Flens Arena in Flensburg, Germany, was constructed in just seven days. This experiment of sorts was dissected by the panel, who made some interesting conclusions about what this could mean for broadcasting in the future.

5G as a catalyst for creative production methods The panel agreed that the use of smartphones as camera devices for the Handball event highlighted the possibilities of harnessing new dramaturgical perspectives. Whereas static cameras require lots of space and distance to the pitch area in order to achieve the correct angle, the agility of the smartphone coverage produced new and previously unseen angles, with the added benefit of being able to quickly pan to follow the fast-moving action.

The smartphones gave us a blank slate of sorts upon which to compose a new broadcasting narrative, commented von B hlen. We wanted to give the viewer a feeling of proximity to the match. From action on the actual handball pitch to cheering crowds, the smartphones succeeded in providing us with a totally refreshing narrative, a direct result of the flexibility of 5G.

However, not all panel members were convinced of the quality of such new dramaturgical perspectives offered up by 5G.

While it is true that the agility of smartphones as capturing devices enabled us to create quick pans and unexpected, flexible follows; it's precisely these fast movements which ultimately proved sometimes somewhat borderline in terms of quality, commented Frantz.

As a result, the limited computing capacity and camera quality of the smartphones meant that we did see patches of, what I would consider being semi-professional broadcasting quality.

5G: expanding the definition of viewing consumption? Thanks to 5G's ability to bond different bandwidths and channels together, data and content can be utilised within the same transmissible ecosystem, bringing huge advantages for content creators looking to deliver extra information to devices.

As a result, there is potentially more scope to offer viewers more real-time data, camera angles, match statistics and other viewing-enriching services. Whereas currently such add ons are available to some high profile tier 1 sports events, there is a definite democratising factor associated with 5G in the sense that such added benefits will also be available when streaming lower-tier sports events.

We have to think about what kind of added value 5G can offer a production, continued Reitano. With the ability to distribute more content, we can assume that the viewer has access to better quality footage with greater engagement. If the handball event has taught us anything, it is that 5G is going to totally transform the viewing experience of lower-tiered sports events.

Potential 5G pitfalls While 5G will inevitably lead to positive changes on the creative side, the panel were, however, unanimous in their concerns about the deployment of 5G. Echoed sentiments included the necessity of guaranteeing a strong and consistent connection: crucial if 5G is to prove a viable alternative for broadcasting in high profile tier 1 sports events.

With consumer data usage already at record levels, von B hlen commented that the imminent introduction of 5G will inevitably accelerate use of data, which in itself could pose problematic for burgeoning 5G production plans.

At the moment we're limited with 5G because of the cost of the infrastructure required to operate it, he commented. Providing enough network capacity to support even a basic service is going to be the biggest challenge for organisers and venues.

As this event demonstrated, 5G is enabling the possibility of turning up to a tier 4 event with a laptop and a smartphone and broadcasting the event entirely using cloud services.

In addition to infrastructure, the issue of signal security was also voiced, especially with regards to the single point of failure present when only one connection is available. Bonding (a process where several channels are lumped together
LINK: https://www.svgeurope.org/blog/headlines/evolution-not-revolution-sky-...
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